With the help of drones, the researchers successfully collected evidence of previously unseen cave paintings that date back approximately 5,000 to 7,500 years, according to a statement from the University of Alicante in Spain.
The Penàguila municipality is renowned for its abundant prehistoric art communities. The project enabled the exploration of areas that would otherwise require difficult and complex access routes.
The team reported finding initial results within a few days of employing drones in a quarry at the Penàguila municipality in Alicante.
Francisco Javier Molina Hernández, an archaeologist from the University of Alicante and the leader of the project, sought to experiment with a novel approach by equipping drones with cameras.
Being a licensed drone pilot, he believed it would offer a convenient method for surveying caves that were challenging to access. During their initial drone flights, the team explored a total of 18 caves, discovering that two of them contained prehistoric cave paintings dating back 7,000 years.
Molina explained to CNN that the motivation behind using drones stemmed from the team’s previous experiences of endangering their lives while attempting to reach cavities located in rugged geographical areas.
He further highlighted that numerous other caves had never been examined due to their location in inaccessible regions.
The researchers emphasized the significance of their discovery, stating that it represents one of the most important Neolithic rock art sites found in the Valencia region in recent decades, primarily due to the abundance of depicted figures.
Molina Hernández, speaking to Artnet News, explained that the mountainous areas of Alicante have many inaccessible sections, and using drones to capture photographs of the cave walls has proven to be a rapid and effective method.
He further mentioned that this recent finding suggests the existence of numerous prehistoric cave paintings yet to be uncovered. Molina also speculated that our ancient ancestors may have constructed scaffolding structures to access some of these caves.
The team analyzed and enhanced the raw photos of the caves using Photoshop, which yielded the desired results. In the first cave, situated in the Castellet-Barranc del Salt ravine, the images depicted figures, approximately four inches in size, including archers, deer, goats, and some animals wounded by arrows.
The second cave revealed similar paintings, although they were in a poorer state of preservation. Subsequently, climbers physically examined the site, verifying the presence of multiple painted figures in different styles, including symbolic human shapes and animals like goats and deer, some of which were marked with arrow motifs.
The researchers view this as a significant breakthrough discovery that will contribute to a deeper comprehension of the evolution of cave painting styles in the region.
Since the 1980s, ongoing explorations in the area have been building upon the groundwork laid by local researchers Mauro Hernández, Pere Ferrer, and Enric Catalá, who authored the authoritative publication on prehistoric rock art in Alicante.
Drones have revolutionized the field of archaeology by providing an efficient and cost-effective alternative to traditional methods of data collection. With the ability to cover vast areas in a short period and capture images from multiple angles, drones have delivered precise and comprehensive data.
Molina stated, “The discovery of new cave paintings in this type of cave suggests that prehistoric humans developed advanced climbing techniques, possibly utilizing ropes or wooden scaffolding.”
The team’s future plans involve employing more powerful drones to capture higher-quality images and expand their research to other regions of Spain, Portugal, and Europe.
The findings of the archaeologists were recently published in the Spanish scientific journal Lucentum.